Alan Shamoon says Apple Bank for Savings is very particular about who it hires, who it lends to and how it treats customers.
That, and its avoidance of the home mortgage business, enabled the privately owned bank to keep growing and stay profitable right through the financial crisis and recession -- without taking any government bailout money.
Headquartered in Manhasset, Apple is descended principally from two Manhattan banks: Harlem Savings, founded during the Civil War, and German Savings, later called Central Savings, founded before the war.
At the helm since 1994 as chairman, president and chief executive is 62-year-old Shamoon, a soft-spoken holder of bachelor and doctoral degrees from Columbia University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He came over from Chemical Bank in 1991.
Apple acquired 29 Emigrant Savings Bank branches in April and now has 77 branches on Long Island, in the city and in Westchester. Its lending is mostly commercial, often for office buildings, and in government-guaranteed loans such as those that fund exports.
How did you manage to keep growing through the troubled times in the financial industry?
In part because of the troubled times in the financial industry. When the crisis unfolded many banks shrank back either because they were unwilling or unable to lend in many cases. But we've always been highly liquid, so we had the cash when other banks were not in such good condition. That opportunity enabled us to grow at a tremendous pace.
Do you see the Long Island economy improving?
I believe that the economy on Long Island may be improving slightly.
Many bankers we've interviewed over the past year have talked about a reluctance on the part of businesses to invest, to expand. Why is that?
I think there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the sustainability of any improvement. We've seen statistics that indicate improvement in various markets and in various areas of businesses at different points in time, but it's difficult to say all areas seem to be consistently marching in the same direction at the same pace.
There's a lot of competition in your business. What attracts people to Apple?
When we talk about providing customer service, we're not just talking about giving them a cup of coffee and sending them birthday cards.
The first element is to hire people who are really top-notch and to keep them in our branches for long periods of time so they get to know all the customers and all the customers get to know them. That has been one of the cardinal foundations of how we operate.
Our customers also know that our financial strength is really at the top of the chart. Our depositors can sleep well at night knowing that the bank will be there tomorrow.
Name: Alan Shamoon, chairman, president and chief executive of Apple Bank for Savings, based in Manhasset
What it does: New York's second-largest state-chartered savings bank
Total assets: $13 billion